I just spent an hour walking in our neighborhood on a beautiful Saturday morning. I have learned that if I will pray with Samuel, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10), God always answers. Today I heard four messages from the Father, all of them centered on his grace.
The first occurred early in the hour, as I watched a man clean up after his dog. The animal looked apologetic as I walked by, as if to say, “I’m sorry he has to do that.” Another few steps took me to a beverage can lying in the road, crushed by passing cars. Immediately the thought flashed into my mind: “I’m glad God cleans up after us.” I took a picture on the spot and tweeted my gratitude for grace.
A few blocks further, I passed a house Janet and I considered buying when we moved to this area. There is a bike with training wheels on the front porch, and a sign displaying proudly their child’s elementary school allegiance. I thought how odd it is that a stranger like me knows the inside of their home, and that others like us saw their house but chose not to buy it. Then it occurred me to me that the home we own was on the market for several weeks before we found it. I wonder who knows it that we don’t know, and how many people rejected what we were glad to own. Then this statement from C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity came to mind:
“I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
As I reflected on his parable, I was grateful for the grace that accepts us as we are but loves us too much to leave us that way.
Still further into my walk with God, I came upon a house for sale. Affixed to the lower part of the realtor sign was this message: “I’m Gorgeous Inside.” Instantly I thought, “I’m not.” I thought of Jesus’ warning to the religious leaders of his day: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). I knew that he was talking to all of us apart from his forgiving mercy, and thanked him for the grace that is greater than all our sins.
I was nearly home when one other image caught my eye. As I walked past an SUV parked on the street, I noticed that its tires were worn nearly bald. I thought what a hassle it would be to replace them at Christmas, when people want to spend their time and money on presents for others, not tires for their car. But it will cost the owner more time and money if one blows out on the freeway. Better to do maintenance now than repairs later. Then I thought: the same is true for my soul. Time spent with God in worship, Bible study, and communion empowers me for whatever lies ahead. The more I connect with his grace this morning, the stronger I’ll be later today.
Philosopher Francis Schaeffer was right: He is there and he is not silent. I’m grateful for such grace.